Luiz Gustavo was an important piece of depth for last year’s treble winners, but in Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich, the Brazilian international didn’t even make the bench for Friday’s opener. Whereas the system Jupp Heynckes used to claim last year’s Champions League used two players at the base of midfield, Guaridola’s only using one. Bastian Schweinsteiger has that spot. Javi Martínez is his understudy. Gustavo can’t break the 18.
That means the 26-year-old needs a new home, lest he wants to spend the lead-up to World Cup 2014 scrounging playing time scraps around the Allianz. Thankfully, Gustavo’s also gotten offers from teams in England, Italy and Russia, with reports claiming Arsenal will try to close the deal this week.
Depending on the price, Gustavo would be a useful acquisition for anybody, his ability to play in midfield or defense giving him the versatility to fill in at a number of spots. If your team plays a typical defensive midfielder, there’s a good chance he’s better than the one you’ve got. For Arsenal, he’d provided some needed reinforcement.
The extent to which you see Arsenal as needing reinforcement probably depends on your view of Alex Song. Arsenal sold their defensive midfielder to Barcelona last summer and didn’t truly replace him. The following season, the Gunners recorded two more points, still finished top four (albeit one spot lower), and allowed 12 fewer goals. Yet missing a destroyer at the base of midfield, some felt Arsenal lacking.
That’s where Gustavo steps in. He is what’s become a typical Brazilian sitter – a player whose very strong protecting the defense (or, at times, dropping into defense) but doesn’t offer a lot in the build up. He strikes a ball well and can be dangerous running onto a shot, but he’s much more Gilberto Silva than anybody Arsenal used in front of the defense last year.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves on this one. First, he hasn’t been signed, and although the link (above) is from a reputable source, the language is the typical thin, nebulous content that’s regularly churned out by the London media. There’s no mention of potential fee, wages, and there only quote being used (“nothing concrete yet”) is ambiguous. We have to trust the report isn’t coming out of nowhere, but it could be stronger.
Likewise, we shouldn’t just assume Arsenal will move Gustavo into the starting XI. Some feel a prototypical destroyer is obligatory in today’s game, but Arsene Wenger was clearly content mixing a matching his non-defensive midfielders last season. The three central players who ended up with the most appearances were Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, and Jack Wilshire, but even the last two would sometimes find themselves out of the XI if Santi Cazorla was moved in from the winger.
And, as we mentioned, Arsenal’s defense actually improved last season. A lot of that was on the year-over-year improvement was saw from Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, but some of it could have been Arsenal’s improved ability to hold the ball. If that’s Wenger’s view, Gustavo could just be a tool in the box, something to use as the job requires. And it that’s not Wenger’s view, he could still see Arsenal’s back five as sufficient.
Regardless, this is Arsenal, and given how their summer’s progressed, there’s reason to be skeptical that this deal’s as close is being reported. But if Gustavo winds up at The Emirates, he should be a very useful part.